Badminton: Bankier has high hopes for new pairing

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LONDON 2012 Olympian Imogen Bankier believes her partnership with Bulgaria’s Petya Nedelcheva could be a match made in heaven after sweeping aside two of England’s best at the Yonex All England Open Badminton Championships.

Bankier, 25, and Nedelcheva saw off England’s Heather Olver and Kate Robertshaw 21-6, 21-15 in their first qualification round at Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena despite their lack of experience together.

“It’s only our second tournament together so obviously we are still getting to know each other,” said Bankier, who won world mixed doubles silver with her London 2012 partner Chris Adcock in 2011.

“I played and trained in England for six years so I know them quite well and I think we just coped with the conditions today a little better than they did. For us it was about testing our levels and seeing where we are at, and obviously we are pleased with the win.

“That was my first match [against England opposition] since I left the GB programme but, obviously, it’s difficult because they are friends and rivals and I know that their coaches coached me. It’s difficult knowing that everyone knows your game inside out but I get by.”

Elsewhere, Scotland national women’s champion Kirsty Gilmour fell just short of the main draw in the West Midlands, crashing to a 21-10, 21-17 defeat to France’s Sasha Vignes Warran.

The 19-year-old came from a game down to defeat Tee Jing Yi of Malaysia 15-21, 21-14, 21-16 with just Warran standing between her and place in the main draw, originally leaving her in optimistic mood. “Getting through qualifying here is like winning a mini tournament so I’m just happy I made it through the first round,” said Gilmour.

“I’ve beaten her before at Bitburger in November, and it was a bit more comfortable then. I was feeling quite positive, I didn’t want it to go to three but I got there in the end.”

Gilmour teamed up with Edinburgh’s Jillie Cooper to edge past England’s Jessica Fletcher and Alyssa Lim 21-18 21-18 in the women’s doubles.

In the mixed doubles, Cooper and Robert Blair’s bid came to an abrupt end when they fell 21-15 22-20 to Hong Kong’s Chan Yun Lung and Tse Ying Suet, despite holding game point at 20-19 in the second.

But Blair and Malaysian Tan Bin Shen came through a three-game battle with England’s Chris Coles and Matthew Nottingham 21-11 15-21 21-9 in their first qualifying round and will play Belgian pair Mattijs Dierickx and Freek Golinski in the next round.

Longniddry’s Paul Van Rietvelde and England’s Marcus Ellis were in also qualifying action in Birmingham yesterday and they beat Phillip Chew and Sattawat Pongnairat, of Malaysia, 21-19, 21-12 and were due to play Ji Wook Kang and Sang Joon Lee at the arena late last night.

• Experience it yourself with tickets for the Yonex All England Open Badminton Championships available at www.allenglandbadminton.com or call the box office on 0844 444 9994.